JJ flirts with perfection as Miami snaps skid

JJ flirts with perfection as Miami snaps skid

JJ flirts with perfection as Miami snaps skid
MIAMI -- The Braves couldn't stop Josh Johnson during Monday night's series opener, but a cut on his right middle finger did.

Johnson was lifted at the start of the seventh inning for precautionary reasons, but he threw six innings of one-hit ball as the Marlins downed the Braves, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game series at Marlins Park. Four relievers finished off a four-hitter that snapped a five-game losing streak for the Marlins, who began the day by trading Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit.

"After a bad day, great win," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Great fight. We go down there and pitch well. It seemed like we had a little more life today than the last few days. It's a big win for us, especially after we lost JJ."

Johnson was zoned in from the start, retiring the first 14 batters he faced. He struck out six of the first 12 Braves who came to the plate, and he fanned a season-high-tying nine on the night.

The righty didn't allow a baserunner until Brian McCann singled to right field with two outs in the fifth. It was the only hit the Braves would muster against Johnson, who was able to work around the single without any damage.

"I've faced JJ a number of times, and he's always tough on us," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "When Mac got the base hit, I went, 'Wooh,' because he had no-hit stuff, if not perfect-game stuff."

After getting Dan Uggla to hit into a fielder's choice to end the fifth, Johnson worked a clean slate in the sixth despite his nail digging into his skin and causing a cut on his finger early in the inning. Johnson, who said he was bleeding after each pitch in that frame, was lifted before the seventh.

The righty dealt with a similar cut earlier this season and was unable to throw for three days. He does not expect to miss his next start.

"I was going back in there and Ozzie talked me out of it," Johnson said. "(Guillen) said, 'Be smart for once about going out there.'"

For the night, Johnson threw 87 pitches, 53 of them for strikes, and he retired 18 of the 19 batters he faced. He didn't surrender a walk for the second time in three starts -- and just the second time this season.

"That's the best I've ever seen him in a little while," Guillen said. "Unfortunately that's the way we roll. That's the way we're playing right now, all year long. A guy's been throwing the ball like that, then all of a sudden, boom, he can't pitch."

While Johnson was stellar before his night was cut short, he was able to work with a lead for most of his outing.

Emilio Bonifacio, who was moved to second base just before first pitch when the trade was finalized, hit his first home run of the season -- and his first since Sept. 25, 2011, against Milwaukee -- in the second inning, launching a full-count offering from lefty Mike Minor over the left-field wall.

Bonifacio found out after batting practice that he would play second. Moments later, Infante personally told him about the trade to send the second baseman and Sanchez to the Tigers.

Bonifacio's solo shot gave the Marlins an early 2-0 lead. They got on the board in the first thanks to three consecutive singles to lead off the game, capped by Carlos Lee's RBI base hit to score Jose Reyes.

"It was a good feeling to give JJ, with the way he was throwing the ball, a 2-0 lead," Bonifacio said.

Mike Dunn relieved Johnson to start the seventh and worked a scoreless inning-plus. Edward Mujica and Randy Choate worked around a leadoff walk by Dunn in the eighth to preserve the lead.

After back-to-back Braves hits to start the ninth, Jason Heyward grounded into a controversial double play that manager Fredi Gonzalez argued, resulting in his ejection. Jones hit an RBI single to cut the lead in half before Scott Cousins made a sliding grab of Freddie Freeman's fly ball in shallow center to end the game.

For the Marlins, it was a much-needed win against a National League East opponent on a day the team traded away two starters. However, Miami is still 11 1/2 games behind first-place Washington with 66 games left, and possibly more transactions are on the way before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline -- something Guillen didn't anticipate after Spring Training.

"We lost a couple guys we thought were going to be players all the way to the end," Guillen said. "Unfortunately we're not playing good enough to keep those guys. ... It's our fault [that the front office] has to start making moves."

Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.